Terrorism. Let’s talk about it. Because as of late, it has been utterly rampant in this country. What it is, where it is and how it can be stopped if it can be stopped at all? It needs to be recognized and it needs to be called out. By assigning this label to more of what rightfully deserves it, people may be able to better grasp the alarming problem that is occurring in America today.
Merriam Webster defines terrorism as “the unlawful use or threat of violence, especially against the state or the public as a means of attack or coercion.” “Unlawful use or threat of violence.” In essence, if a person was to drive a car into a crowd of people, it would be an act of terror. If a person was to send a hypothetical weapon of destruction to an unsuspecting citizen, it would be an act of terror. If for some completely illogical reason, a person was to open fire upon innocent civilians, it would be an act of terror. Those examples are all “unlawful use[s] or threat[s] of violence.” The pipe bombs, the attack in Charlottesville, the seemingly endless amount of shootings—these are all examples of acts of terrorism. Except that is not what society calls them. We say “hateful crimes,” “grave tragedies” and “violent acts”—the list goes on and on. We refuse to call it terrorism out of fear of the term’s gravity.
Why? Why is this word so scary to us? Is it because terrorism isn’t supposed to come from one of “our own?" Is it because the people performing these acts aren’t the stereotypical terrorists we’ve come to know? The person who killed twelve people at a bar in Thousand Oaks, CA, was a twenty-eight-year-old white man. The name of the man who shot up the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh is Germanic in origin. The man who drove his car into a group of protesters at a KKK rally in Charlottesville has been said to be a Neo-Nazi. The man who sent pipe bombs across the nation to the homes of many prominent Democratic politicians was an advocate for President Trump. These men, as well many, many other people who have committed crimes with the intent of senseless violence, don’t look like the men who flew planes into the Twin Towers, or those who left explosives along the route of the Boston Marathon. They don’t have dark, thick beards, they weren’t foreign-born—for the most part, these were white, middle-class American men, not foreigners. And, more importantly, they’re still terrorists. Their race and ethnicity should not exempt them from this term. By definition, they still meet the qualifications. They have still committed acts of (threatened) violence against the state, public, or both. But by societal standards, their ethnicity, their race, their religion—they don’t fit the American image of a "terrorist."
Yet they are still here, still murdering our neighbors and loved ones. And now, seemingly more than ever, domestic terrorism is very prevalent in this country. There have been 309 mass shootings so far this year. I sit here on November 15, the 336th day of the year. We’ve had almost as many mass shootings as we’ve had days. One cannot possibly say that there is not an inherent issue within that statement.
Not all of these shootings can be considered acts of terrorism, not by any stretch. In addition, not all acts of terrorism are driven by gun violence—domestic or foreign. Obviously, some of the most famous instances of foreign terror involved bombings. Even domestic terrorism (such as the attack in Charlottesville, the mailing of pipe bombs) is executed with instruments aside from bullets. And in those instances, we need to respond differently than we would to a shooting. In these situations, we need to remind people why they should be angry. The polarization in politics that has become so overwhelming that we can no longer co-exist peacefully. The rally that sparked a protest in Charlottesville (which led to a subsequent deliberate car crash, killing pedestrians) was organized by the Ku Klux Klan—the same group that organized lynching’s of people merely for the color of their skin sixty years ago, and has reappeared all these years later. The pipe bombs were mailed by an evidently mentally-unstable, avid conservative supporter of President Trump, whom apparently had a strong distaste for anyone even remotely associated with the Democratic party. We are at the point in our nation in which politics elicit violence. Regardless of party affiliation, we are all still people. Political disagreements are not worth the cost of a human life. We need to continue to remind others of that sentiment. It is imperative that Democrat or Republican, we do not become so engrossed in political issues that we lose our sense of basic humanity.
For the instances that are products of gun violence, we still need to keep our energy strong. Advocate for change. We don’t need to eradicate guns, but gun safety and control needs to be made a priority. Buying a gun needs to be more than a five-minute process. The types of guns a civilian can buy needs to be re-evaluated. The types of people able to buy one needs to be re-evaluated. Hold rallies, attend protests, form student groups, find like-minded people who are just as tired as you are of reading about the new batch of people killed by a crazed terrorist who showed up in a public place with a gun. Call local lawmakers, sign petitions, make your voice heard—let others know that you are done watching the slaughter of innocent lives, and that you want to do something about it.
For the people who have been affected by any sort of senseless violence, especially those who have either survived an attack themselves or lost a loved one—you are allowed to be scared. You are allowed to feel pain, you are allowed to be weary. You are allowed to take a back seat and merely try and cope with the terrible, traumatic events that transpired. Someday, when and if you are ever ready, you can use your experiences to prevent others from ever having to go through the horror you endured. If that day ever comes, that’s wonderful, but if it never does, that is perfectly okay.
There is too much unnecessary, unsolicited violence occurring in this nation for nothing to be done. It starts with addressing it by what it actually is: terrorism. We need to come together as a society, putting aside our differences and fight the rampant, unnecessary loss of life due to violence that is overtaking our country.
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